Dissident Chicago priest asked to step down over child abuse allegations
CHICAGO, January 8, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A dissident priest in the archdiocese of Chicago who championed numerous left-wing causes and associated with politicians and public figures on the left, has been asked to step aside from his ministry due to a decades-old child sexual abuse allegation.
In a January 5th letter to the Faith Community of Saint Sabina and the Saint Sabina Academy, Cardinal Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago conveyed this “difficult news” regarding their senior pastor Father Michael Pfleger, explaining that his present leave was in keeping with archdiocesan child protection policies while the allegation from more than 40 years ago is being investigated.
Despite some laudable efforts, Fr. Pleger ran afoul of foundational Catholic social justice priorities when he became the most high-profile Catholic supporter of pro-abortion presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2007, praising him as “the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.”
For such advocacy on behalf of the future president, Cardinal George sanctioned the priest requiring him to take a “temporary leave of absence” to “contemplate his controversial remarks” which violated the "discipline common to all Catholic priests."
Pfleger also handed over the pulpit at St. Sabina to several pro-abortion figures over the years, such as singer Harry Belafonte, who criticized former president George W. Bush for threatening a “woman’s right to abortion,” as well as former pro-abortion Democrat presidential candidate Al Sharpton.
Fr. Pfleger has also caused controversy among Catholics by expressing doctrinally dissenting views in advocacy for women “priests” and an end to priestly celibacy.
In 2019, Pfleger had invited Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish. “Alarmed by Pfleger’s invitation for Farrakhan to speak at his church, Illinois Holocaust Museum officials spoke out Thursday afternoon against Pfleger for ‘giving hatred a platform,’” the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
In 2011, Cardinal George suspended the priest again for combative remarks indicating he would prefer to leave the Catholic Church than his parish, when the archdiocese planned to transition him to a new pastoral role at a nearby high school. After apologizing, George restored him to his parish.
In April 2010, Pfleger was honored by the archdiocese with its Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement award.
At the awards ceremony Cardinal George emphasized that abortion was incompatible with racial justice, but also defended the volatile Pfleger against negative news coverage.
“Fr. Pfleger has been a controversialist; and controversy is easier to report on than is love,” said George. “Fr. Pfleger has spoken in anger, sometimes unjustly or uncharitably; and anger is easier to capture on the camera than is love. But Fr. Pfleger is a Catholic priest and a pastor, and in that capacity, like all good priests and pastors, he acts out of love.”
The parish website’s biography of Fr. Pfleger states how the priest has been an activist against gun violence, alcohol and tobacco billboards which target children and saturate “communities of Color,” the sale of drug paraphernalia, and “negative music that glorified violence and degraded women.”
Listing many awards and honors, along with a generous selection of media appearances, the bio states the priest “has been recognized for his commitment to equality and passionate stance against injustice.”
He has also founded local apostolates to serve his community with employment, youth development, social services, and spiritual advancement, along with establishing a homeless shelter and an “80-unit Elders Village.”
Along with other outreaches he developed a team of parishioners, who instead of calling the police on local prostitutes, went out and paid for their time in order to talk with them about how they could turn their lives around.
In his January 5th letter on the allegations of sexual abuse, Cupich clarified that “[a]llegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false. Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.” He also conveyed that “Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully” with the investigation.
Further, the cardinal specified that the allegation has been reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State’s Attorney, as required by policy, and that “[t]he person making the allegation has been offered the services of our Victim Assistance Ministry.”
In a written response published on the Saint Sabina website, the community’s “Cabinet” pledged their full support for their longtime parish priest, stating they “believe that these accusations are unfounded” and they “boldly stand behind the integrity, passion, work and ministry” of their “Sr. Pastor, Rev. Michael Pfleger.”
Pledging their full cooperation with the investigation they state that “we believe that our Sr. Pastor will be fully exonerated from all accusations and we will stand with him during this process as he had stood with victims of injustice and will continue to uplift his work and the life, he has committed to serving others.”